Ravenloft: Prisoners of the Mist

Within the swirling Mist (IC) => Biographies => Topic started by: Audric Lacroix on February 05, 2017, 08:50:44 AM

Title: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on February 05, 2017, 08:50:44 AM


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Audric sat in peaceful silence in his quarters within the Palace of the Grand Master- the primary fortress of the Knights of Rhodes.  A peaceful night was rare, and a warm night was nearly unheard of.  He calmly stoked the fire and leaned back into his elegant chair, pressing a hand to his chin as he surveyed his surroundings.  He did not particularly enjoy the fact that everything surrounding him was so very lavish- it felt wrong.  Why did he relax in luxury and wealth, while so many did not?  Audric tried to rationalize it, attributing to his status as a priest and a fledgling tactician respected by the higher ranking Knights, but it never truly sat well with him. 

    With the fire poker in hand, he gently prodded the fireplace again, smiling wryly as the other elegant chair that had just recently suffered an 'accident-' broken into a few manageable pieces,  burned beautifully and provided a comfortable amount of heat.  He wanted what was necessary- nothing more.  Audric was a Knight, and a Man of God. 

    A soft sigh triggered the faintest brush of his hand against the well-treated scar across his face, drowning in the soothing noise of the crackling flame, and he found himself dreaming once more of last weeks events. 

------------------

"Father Glenn- do you see that- just there? " 
One of the younger Knight Hospitaler spoke, from within the regiment on one of their rare excursions outside the Citadel.  It was more of an explorative venture than a militaristic one, familiarizing the newer Knights with the landscape that surrounded them.  Audric had volunteered to accompany the unit keep the Holy Spirit with them- he was often fond of praying over hidden gems of nature. It earned him the name Glenn. 

This venture was unusual further, for they departed at night. The prevailing and motivating thought behind the decision was that they must be able to navigate the surrounding land in poor weather, or light conditions. 

Encountering a small armed band was definitely not on the agenda, Audric mused to himself. They left in armor, and had brought rudimentary weapons, but he himself was not a primary combatant and nor were the fledgling knights with him.

"I see them, Jacques. Go-  Take Francis and return to the Citadel. Inform the Grand Master, a Barbary sloop has made it through near the Kalithea Bay. " Audric replied, calmly, peering through the visor of his helmet at the small ship that had run aground.  An informative, peaceful venture had taken a turn for the worst.

They could hide, or they could track them.  He chose to take himself and the eight remaining Knights, and keep track of the ten or so men that had departed the grounded vessel. Audric's reigning philosophy was that all evil required to flourish was for the good and just to do nothing, and he refused to tolerate such a notion.

The fledgling Knights of Rhodes moved in a determined manner to follow them for several hours, empowered by Audrics constant reminder of the Lord God and his Son Jesus Christ, and the hope of pending reinforcement from Knights with experience in combat.  Hope was rewarded- as hoofbeats thundered in the distance.  Jacques and Francis had returned on horseback, and had not yet spotted them.  Another of the freshly minted Knights waved his hands and yelled out to them, though his enthusiastic cheer was met with a quick demise.   

An arrow point exploded through the center of his forehead, shot true from a distance not far.  The Ottoman scouts evidently knew well enough that they were being pursued, and decided they could overpower the ill equipped Knights in short order.

---------------------

The clash lasted only minutes, but for each of the young men, those minutes seemed to be an eternity.  The Archer had managed to fell Francis, before he could approach with his steed, and the others clashed in melee combat.   The Knights prevailed, perhaps by sheer luck, but after the Archer had been eliminated by a well aimed shot by Audric, it was truly Jacques who turned the tide of battle with his hand-axe and black mare.

Audric cautiously observed his surroundings, his aura plagued by guilt.  He escorted these young men to their deaths.   Six of the ten he brought out were dead- each of them ejected from the mortal coil long before their time.  They had fought valiantly, though, and had given no quarter. 

So far as he could tell, only one man remained alive from the opposition. A young man, no older than his own knights, quivering in the cold and muck as the other three surviving Hospitalers surrounded him.  They did not understand his speech, nor did he understand theirs, but the intent of the three young Knights was clear. Doom.   

Jacques dismounted his mare and gripped his axe tightly, marching over to the wounded Ottoman, and resolutely raised it over his head. "For my brother, and for my friends. You cr- "  Mid sentence, and mid swing, Audric bellowed loud enough to suprise him.   "No!  That is not who we are!"   Jacques turned in disbeleif, glaring at Audric " You would spare him?  After this- after we bathe in the blood of our brothers? "

"You would kill a man who cannot fight you?  " Audric removed his helmet, to fully convey his disdain with a grimace.

"Yes," Replied Jacques tersely, turning from the Chaplain and raising the axe to terminate his foe once more. 

Audric moved, faster than he ever had before, and the blood stained steel sword was raised above his head as he slid upon his knee's to land himself between Jacques and the terrified Ottoman.  He had been fast enough, and his sword had blocked the haft of the axe, but at great price.  The glistening blade was buried, at an angle, a half inch into his face.   

Blood glistened down the steel, but Audric did not flinch or yell.  He spoke, calm and cool, murmuring only... " That is not who we are. That is not who you are.  Do not forget yourself.  "   ...before he fell to the side, sword, axe, and body clattering noisily into the dirt.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on February 11, 2017, 08:14:24 PM
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The crackling of the flames finally released him from his dreaming, in time for him to be roused by a loud knock upon his chamber door.  A drowsy, subdued greeting from Audric,   " Yes?  Please, come in.  "

A small statured figure, clad in the typical red and white of the Knights, emerged from the slowly opening door. It was none other than Jacques, the man who marred him.  Subconsciously Audric raised his hand and brushed at the healing scar across his face, allowing himself his typical kind smile, despite the searing pain.  The poor lad before him looked contrite and remorseful, bowing his head in absolute shame. 

"Father Glenn..  I..  ah..   I am sorry, again.  The Grand Master requests your presence, on the terrace.  He is walking the wall, and wishes.. to hear your report directly.  "

Audric mused, quietly, stoking the broken pieces of the chair in the campfire once more.  Jacques looked on with a quiet bit of surprise, stuttering and letting the words fall haphazardly from his mouth. .  "Is that your other chair?  Wh- why?   " 

A calm, cool response... " Yes, it is.  I did not need three.  I need warmth over pointless luxury.  "   

The other Knight shook his head faintly, and stammered again, pointing to the door.  " .. Grand Master..  uh..   wall, yeah.  Hm.  "   He rubbed his head and headed back out the door.   Audric allowed himself the time to laugh, and gather his helmet, sword and shield. 


-------------

 "Grand Master?"  Audric murmured, as he ascended the final set of stairs to meet with the esteemed man.  The great Knight turned to observe him, as he took his final approach, the pair bowing in unison to one another. 

"Father Lacroix. How good to see you.  .   I wanted to speak with you about the skirmish you engaged in, the prior week.  An incredible feat, a blessing of the Lord, that any of you survived.  "  The grizzled old man ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head.  " It still yet pains me that our brothers did not return, and that you were so greviously wounded. An Ottoman must have gotten very close.   You have a skilled defense if I remember correctly. " The Grand Master eyed him skeptically. . .

. . . And Audric did not budge.  A single nod, " Yes, Grand Master. It was a lucky strike, one that I will not allow to happen again. "   The first, and only lie the Knight ever told.

"He caught you with your helmet off, did he? "

" .. A chance encounter. "  He nods, again.

The old Grand Master knew better and responded with a faint chuckle.  " The Lord willed it to be so, and who are we to question God?  " 

Audric was just about to speak, until he heard something in the far off distance- and he was not the only one.  Many of the Sentries and watchmen glanced out to the water, and one of them bellowed his last breath, a warning cut short.

"CANNON FI-- "   A spray of blood, and rock, was all that remained of the Knight of Rhodes.  Bells rang across the Citadel, and men moved quickly into action.  A sea of red and white responding to the late night attack.   

The Grand Master, perhaps the strongest willed and boldest of them, did not budge.  Cannon balls impacted the walls at a great frequency, as more and more ships emerged from the distance.  The old man dragged out an old spyglass, and peered across the water.   It clattered roughly to the ground, and he raised his sword.  "  RETURN FIRE!  ALL CANNONS, FIVE UP-  " 

A hurried chattering, and the men scrambled- loading the cannons with an urgent efficiency.   The retorts were deafening, sending metal towards their foes.   Many missed, but just as many found their mark with little to no avail.    As they fired, more and more ships emerged, as only a few remained broadside to engage the citadel.   An entire Armada had emerged by then, a hundred ships and a hundred more, in the dead of night, laying siege upon the fabled fortress. 

The chaos was unmeasured, and Audric stood by the Grand Master, paralyzed with fear.   Fog, an unnatural fog, clouded the battlement that obscured their view from the enemy, and seemed to cling to Father Glenn.   It, in turn, provided him magic that was otherwise beyond him.  A swiftly murmured prayer, and the entropic shield enveloped him as he stood between the Grand Master and the cannonball that sought to kill them both.

Metal found its mark true, seemingly hitting Audric directly, but the magic the mist bought combined with the sheer will of the Priest, the cannonball struck what should have been, and veered to the side, off of his shield and into stone far into the distance.

The fog cleared, in that instant, and Audric was gone. . .yet the Grand Master remained.

The Citadel fell, as was predetermined by the insurmountable enemy, and history continued on as usual, just without the young Father Glenn. . . 

The Siege of Rhodes continued on, and Audric was forgotten amongst the whispers of time as the mist left, carrying him in tow. 
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on March 15, 2017, 09:53:29 PM
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3/14/772
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[This page appears to have been removed.]
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on April 02, 2017, 01:03:02 PM

He sat down, crossing his legs and taking the quill and parchment he'd spent the night tutoring Anya with, sketching a rough semblance of her. The picture was slid into his heavy bound journal, and the grizzled old Knight leaned back to recall the events of the day.

Quote
Audric breached the doors of the wicked Alhoons fortress, met by a company of heavily armed Battle Horrors. He had fought many battles back on Earth, but never had he endured the hardship and struggle he encountered here: No room for error, overwhelming odds, no fear.

The legion of steel engaged in beautiful, terrible dance, and the Crusader burst through their ranks in a shower of splintered metal and magical orbs.

No hesitation, he recalled, despite the horror upon witnessing the master of the lair. A normal man, even those normally strong of heart, from his world would have curled and wept at merely the sight of the beast. . .

It was different, for Father Glenn: The first many weeks of his arrival were spent cowering from every noise and whisper. The choice presented was clear, adapt or die.

Still he could sense and feel the wretch envelope his helmet with that ugly maw, and clearer still was the memory of slamming his head into it hard enough to crumple it like a wet rag.

Audric placed his foot on the mangled body, and recited aloud.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Those cobalt orbs flickered back to life, with a thoughtful murmur from his bedroll, Audric observed Anya as she rested peacefully. Hands gripped the journal, and quill came to parchment.

____
April 2nd, 772 (AD?) Time is strange here. Almost relative.
____

Why did this take so long to happen? Where was my might and courage? You disarm me, priestess, and I would be a liar and a sham if I did not admit I enjoy every moment of it. As a senior Knight and soldier, I am very rarely surprised or. . .Vulnerable, but I was trained to destroy the enemies of the Lord and protect his flock. I could conquer the world, and none of that experience would have prepared me adequately to meet you.

I was more afraid of speaking to you without blushing, or being shy: A child, than I was when that calamari calamity tried to claim my head as his own.

I almost feel bad for that Acolyte: bashful thing. Never had I stopped to consider how others might perceive my words, but alas you spoke a resounding truth...

'No one else speaks with your passion and feeling.'

That, I think, is because they are afraid to present whom and what they are deep within. I hope that I can take that fear from you, and give you the hope and confidence you have given me.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on June 26, 2017, 09:39:36 PM

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

   Father Lacroix knelt before the fireplace within the plain, yet cozy lodge of the Wayfarer Kinship.   His sword lay resting peacefully within its scabbard before him, with a bloody rag discarded unceremoniously next to it, the grim result of laborious cleaning. The Crimson Knight released the Catholic Rosary and placed his hands on the flat of the scabbard, murmuring his confession to the only one in the realm ordained to hear it. . . himself.

   "I have taken my sacred sword, fashioned in the image of the Holy Durandal, and spilled the blood of man.  I have acted in the defense of life, and struck down the enemies of light. I have sent their souls through Time and Mist to be judged before your almighty gaze, in the final hopes that thay may seek some final confession and redeem themselves before thee.   When the end comes- should they nay repent, may you welcome them without malice, unto the eternal flame of hell.  Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

   He stood, at the end of his confession, and clutched the blade with both hands- freeing it from its ornate scabbard with the telltale metallic hiss.  A long, thoughtful, almost remorseful pause as he observed the immaculate dwarven-forged steel, and he would sheathe it with a heavy thunk.   

   "There is work to be done. . .  "

   Audric turned, his blood red cloak billowing neigh menacingly and basking in the glow of the fire. 
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on October 12, 2017, 05:48:37 PM

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10/12/772
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I had a theological conversation with the rather passionate Herald of ours, Iridni.  I used to question her stability, seeing her as irrational and unreasonably angry at things we cannot change, but I have noticed that she has changed tremendously.   No doubt the strain of the world can have a significant effect on the spirit- but she seems to have no outward diminishment of her hope or passion. 

The Kinship is blessed to have her. 

She did, however, say one thing that concerned me- something I have brooded over for sometime.  Months now. 


'I like this side of you, Audric.  You should show it more.' 

That would be nice- a place and a position where I could be nothing but genuine and feeling.  That is not what God has provided for me, or the place he has created for me here.  I carry upon my shoulders the weight of not just one world, but two or three.  If I were to be so unfiltered and free, unrestrained- I would be unable to accept the things I can now, to observe things impartially and with-hold action.     I would right every wrong, oppose every injustice, and the fragile peace and order we have obtained would come crashing down.

My hands must remain tied...   

-----
A bible verse is carefully scribed in an elegant cursive
Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.
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For if the bonds that held fell to the wayside, I would raise this sword, this mighty Durandal and act as Michael- to bring unbridled might and divine fury to exert the wrath of God over those who have sinned.   For now, I wait, and I pray, and opt for peace... 





This does not make me callous, or heartless.  I love each and every one of you.   
-Father Audric Lacroix, Chaplain of the Lord God and the Holy Trinity, Trustee of the Wayfarer Kinship



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A large, cursive style V is written on the bottom page.
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V
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on October 13, 2017, 07:10:42 PM

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10/13/772
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O Lord,

'In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace'.


Forgive me for the thoughts and anger I bear within me, and continue to imbue me with the strength and fortitude to ward off the hatred I bear for those that live in sin and revel in the forces of evil.

Forgive me for grasping the hilt of Durandal, and splitting cretins from the mortal coil of the just and righteous.

Forgive me, O Lord, for I sin in my desire to destroy them.   Your Son sacrificed himself so that my soul may be pure when I cross through the pearly gates, yet I know firm and true we should live peaceful lives. .  but how may I have peace, when there is such great evil, an entire legion of Lucifers army?  Will the only peace I e'er have be forged through the blood and deaths of the wicked? 

Guide me, O Lord-  Guide me.

-Father Lacroix, Trustee.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on October 27, 2017, 09:05:41 PM



10/27/772
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I spoke a prayer in the midst of battle and the woman that traveled with us remarked that she had ne'er heard such a prayer.  I mentioned that most men of God, most ordained fathers of the church were peaceful men, soley bent on cultivating the herd and tending to the spirits of the faithful.  I do not have that luxury.

-We- do not have that luxury.  We the Knights Hospitaler- the Knights of Rhodes-  fight to protect the holiest sites of the Lord God and his son, Jesus Christ.  We do not have the luxury of peace and happiness- we are men forged from the fires of battle, and endure tests of faith and loyalty that would crush the souls and spirits of the strongest non-beleiver. 

Even the faithful lose their way- See the Lady Emma in her great ruin, or that foolhardy bastard Franz who must have succumbed to his reckless abandon. .

That is why those of us fluent with the love of the Lord exist amongst the militants- Why we the Chaplains are so important, is simple, really..

Those who bathe in the blood of others regularly are bound to experience a crisis of faith, yet 'tis my job, the job of every ordained soldier-priest to remind them what they fight for. We restore hope to the swords of God, and remind them what they fight for. Each chaplain embodies Michael, the leader of the Lords Angels, the holy army whose sole duty is to repel satan and his evil forces. 


I am a Priest.

I am a lover. 


However, in the end, I am a warrior.  I am the Sword of God, the beacon in the darkness, and I will prevail.


I walk through the shadow of the valley of death. . . 



And I know no fear.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on February 01, 2018, 08:34:57 AM
How things have changed.... I have since been demoted as Trustee,  following my failed gambit to lure and trap the Vicomte de Roquefort.

I was contacted by those known to be my enemy, and agreed to listen in the hopes it would bring about some good.

I was wrong. They mistook diplomacy for weakness, and weakness they found,  only not in I.

Lexington. How quickly and efficiently they broke him,  and in truth,  I pity him. Even as he betrays,  ambushes, and conspires to slay, I yet pity him.  May God have mercy on his soul,  if it is right for him to do so. 

It is because of you,  that I am stronger than I ever knew.  You should have believed in me,  instead of a lying, whimpering dog who was readied for the gallows.

You did this to yourself.


Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on February 15, 2018, 08:17:22 PM

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why? Why are people like this? What sort of madness has those about me succumbed to?


The tolerance of evil and hatred is absolutely astounding to me. We had no magic in my world, no monstrous creatures or walking dead, but what we did have was a significant intolerance for evil. Those that broached heresy and blasphemed the Heavenly Father, those that took lives long before their natural time, and those that preyed on they whoim were weaker all had a special circle of hell reserved for each of them.

I do not tolerate inaction, I do not tolerate indifference, and I will never tolerate the sacrilege that has become prevalent amongst the common folk. So many are ignorant of the common folk, the suffering and the pain that the very fabric of this world thrives on...

Not I.  I shall find those that lurk in darkness, hatred, evil and sin. . . and I shall light them up with the glory of the Heavenly Father, for I am his Archangel. I am a fighter, a crusader, and a sword of light amongst the darkness. Should I fall, I shall always rise again, and crusade anew.


Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on June 06, 2018, 09:39:25 PM
Date: Unknown

I was imprisoned within the mist, which is a prison in itself, for a period of several months.  I have endured, I have suffered, and I have survived.  The Son of the Lord walked with me every step, and I did not lose hope. I am, however, very weary. God be with us all, if it is right for him to do so.
----------------------------------------------------
Mist, Mist, Satan's Mist,
Trapping souls in eternal risk,

Wake, wake, from the haze
Rise to set the world alight.

Night, Night, misted night
Terror, and endless fright
Bane, bane rage untamed,
The mist dwells, in ancient frame

But no more,
With a fearsome roar,
Evil will fall,

The fiercest black wings humbled,
Evil will fall.

Day, Day shall arise,
Vengance forever silenced,
Vanquish the fools that cannot see,

The mist shall bow to the sun.



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Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on July 26, 2018, 08:47:59 PM


I cannot begin to describe the feelings that consume me, these days. My heart is plagued with frustrations with friends and allies, burdened by the resurgence of enemies thought vanquished, and made a fool of by a cheap sham.  I, briefly, held some modicum of control over this chaotic spiral.  The pieces were mine to move on the lanceboard- and now the board itself has fractured into an infinite smattering of smaller, identical boards. Not enough hands- not enough peices.

There is a reawakening of another feeling I thought was lost to me.  Fear. 

Not fear of my enemies. I will meet each, and every one of them on the field of battle and I will either be victorious- or they will no longer be my problem.

Fear of the future.  Fear of not being in control.  Fear of being alone.

Where are you, Anya?

I must not lose control. 

God help me, if it is right for him to do so.


Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on August 28, 2018, 08:52:46 PM
Quote
August 26th 773, 1523 AD

The LORD is a God who avenges. O' God who avenges, shine forth | Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all upright in heart will follow it.

I feel an extreme measure of guilt for what has come to pass, as I always have.  I remember the days of yore, where I would pray for those my men- nay the LORD's men- had slain, alongside our own fallen.  Every sentient life is sacred, even if we are forced to take them in defense of HIS name, or our very own lives, ne'er shall we take pleasure from such.  In the end, I am a Soldier, and I must do what is natural for a Soldier, a Knight of the LORD.  I must protect the people whom cannot protect themselves. By strength of heart and steel, I will endure for them, as Christ endured for me. 

Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on August 30, 2018, 02:55:50 PM
Quote
August 30 733, 1523 AD

Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

The natural progression has begun, now that I have moved the Knight forward on the lance-board. The forces of the wicked have seen and begun to organize their armies, and I can only pray that the shield of the LORD combined with I, his conduit, can survive the assault.  I have many to thank, and much to be thankful for, because my advantage is minimal at best.

There is blood in the water. . . . . . and the sharks are coming.

But in the name of the LORD I shall. . .
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil

Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on September 13, 2018, 08:10:23 PM

Quote
September 13th, 1523 AD.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour

I can see the pawns moving. The tales spun to me are long and complicated, but as the devil has his army, I have with me the LORD. 

Hail to the King, to the Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ, for only the righteous can withstand the coming storm.

Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on September 24, 2018, 12:03:17 AM

Quote
My wounds are greater,deeper than I could have ever imagined. There is a great war to be fought, yet when I look to my left to my or right.... I am standing alone. Lord help me if it right for him to do so, or I march forward alone. Can I truly best these scars of time?
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on November 02, 2018, 07:21:45 PM
The Crusader leaned back in the large chair of the Lodge, watching the fireplace roar and flicker with lapping heat and life. A calm, serene smile crept over his face, and he enjoyed a large swig of an exquisite whiskey.  It was reminiscence, or some equivilant, as his surroundings vanished and were replaced by his old room in the Citadel of Rhodes- complete with the Grand Master behind him with his typical ominous expression, flanked by several Knights. 

The whiskey washed down and warmed him with the beautiful dance of fire, and he spoke aloud to no one in particular.

Quote
" And so the trumpets were heard, the beacons were lit, and the soldiers of the Lord All Mighty roared and responded to the call. In a time of impending darkness, the Lord summoned his Archangels, and they feared not conflict. They were born and bred for war, and now is no different.  Michael, with purity of heart and strength of steel raised his blade and the angels flew forth, for while they still drew breath, there would be no eclipse."
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on November 14, 2018, 07:18:07 PM
Quote
That was probably one of my most terrifying moments in the land here. I could probably have taken him in direct combat, but I came under the premise of peace.  I will have to recompose myself and find my mettle again, after that. 

-A.L
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on November 16, 2018, 08:53:32 PM

Quote
What is one to do when a monster asks for help? Met in day, without words exchanged, it would have met steel merciless and true. I am, however often the distinction is made in my name, not a Paladin.  I am a Crusader, true, sworn to protect innocent life and protect the weak-  but it was living flesh and blood, and it asked for my aid.  . not for it's sake, and I am sure it sought to utilize me as a weapon against it's foe- but both its demeanor and information were fruitful.  People that would otherwise be in good standing have been exposed as fradulent and a threat greater than the one that approached me had been revealed. 

To perplex me further, I entertained the creature and under the guise of peace I followed.  It cleared it's kind from the path, and left a legitimate void for us to traverse- and when ambushed by, what I can only presume to be one of their leaders, the one who asked me along spoke to my benefit. 

My Code and my Morality are in conflict.  Perhaps I should have driven my sword through it, and carried on smartly, but then I would know a tenth of what I do now- and this larger threat could have emerged to greater loss of life.

I could not, however, act ruthlessly and simply slay a living being asking for my aid, when it presented an issue that would cause legitimate peril if uninvestigated.

Am I a poor Knight, or a poor Crusader? 

I feel this was a path split in two, and a foot was placed on each one.

My decision troubles me- but a good nights rest, some prayer, and I will ride again to engage the Army of the Night.

-Sir Audric Lacroix. 
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on November 28, 2018, 06:48:22 PM
So strange for a wayfarer to be here. We know of you. We've -smelled- you. 

You will see no fear from me, beast.  Your reckoning is meaningless- the Second Coming of our Lord's Son, Jesus Christ is the only reckoning I will ever know- and in his stead, I ride for Him and His Son. Your threat of hellfire and plague is sweet nothings caressing my neck as I sleep, roiling and toiling- boiling my cauldron of the Lord's wrath from a slow simmer to orchestrated justice.

I can not catch you, but nor can you catch me. You can strike me, and I will not run. You can strike those near to me, and I will break your bones when you approach-  You can rend at my heart and my love for people, and I will crush your resolve.  There is only one way this ends, Mouse. 
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on November 28, 2018, 07:08:25 PM
A shame you are an outlander

Does truly a thing matter?  My country, my world of origin- does it define who I am? 

Should it? 

No.

I had the most... enlightening, beautiful conversation with Private Reznik the other day, and I beleive he has begun to understand the struggle of the outlanders- the cultists- those of us that seem to him- and to the natives- to be larger than life.

I command, only with the strength of the Lord God, a supreme martial prowess and neigh legendary marksmanship.  This has not improved my life, nor made things easier- it was only a distinct method of escalation.  The beasts I come across in Old Night, or in the various countries I find myself residing in, that much stronger.  The threat grows with the might of the fighter.

My awful truth was passed down to him-  Yes, to him I may appear to be a God in human flesh, bringing utter devestation to things that would torment he and his-  but I am not left unopposed.

God Bless Thee, Mitrea and Reznik- for though our twisted world spins still and conjures wicked threats of monumental porportions- I still remember the days, vividly, where the first neuri or strigoi I saw left me cowering in the corners of my Inn room shaking like a beaten pup. Where, perhaps, I stand different-   I have not forgotten where I started, nor would I e'er forsake those that may ne'er claw their way upward.

No one was there to protect me, save for the Trinity- but rest assured- I will be there to protect you.


Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on November 28, 2018, 09:18:54 PM

I need you to stop looking, Audric.

Never before have I felt my heart flutter with a distinct mixture of hope, and dread.  I have been brought into the fold by one who represents the most forgotten, the most elusive agents of this great war of light against dark- yet it appears that they themselves, the side I am PLEDGED too, the side I am INDUCTED into, by one of their OWN, knows nothing of me.

They fear me.

Because I know.

Lord God above, and his generous, bountiful Son- Save me.  Spread your wings and enshroud me, protect me from the coming storm because I no longer beleive that I can do so alone.

The closest I have felt to acceptance- to being a child- even among my own faith, has been from a faith not my own. I am devout, I am -unwavering- in my faith, unwavering in my ethics and I will arise to meet every challenge and every false representation of my faith or any other aspect of my life...

but I admit respect and adoration for Loredana. I have watched her grow from shy child, to a presence that commanded secrecy, honesty, loyalty and trust that makes my own influence seem borderline irelevant.

I consider her a guide, and a friend of the utmost.

Lord help me, but I do not beleive this to be blasphemy. Different people, different rules, but I shall -NEVER- forsake the LORD. .  no matter how I admire her strength and beauty-  for it is like women, like the grand Mothers before her, that will guide the Soldiers and the Knights to true salvation.

Stay strong, dear mother, for we shall ride against Evil, and see it /defeated/.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on December 04, 2018, 11:34:33 AM


Audric had, after many months of neglect, reclaimed his favorite desk in the lower study of the Kinship Lodge. The absence of Anya had left a significant void, and caused him to ignore the seat that granted him breif repreive and solace. Here now, he found himself anew. Dusted and polished, the simple desk truly was a beautiful process of woodwork and the perfect place to retreat. A tactician could ask for nothing more than ample knowledge, and a suitable place to plan and think. This day, however, was unlike the dull dragging on of prior days. His friends, and his closest allies had each restored slivers and fragments of something to him: Humanity. The autonomous contraption of sword and shield loved, again, to do more than fight.

Quote
'This does not equate to a lack of interest.' Heavens, you've gotten bold Audric, or stupid. Shock and awe, in all things. Direct, decisive, and without regret. All are things I might have said so many months ago, according to Borval. Endearing old bastard. Even still, he might have been right if any of this had been a plan- a ploy- or some romantic scheme. I was not thinking, not of perception nor possible reception. I just...spoke the truth as I saw it, even if it had not quite registered. Part of me pines for Anya yet, but it has, at this moment been years. She went wandering in the mists quite willingly, and I doubt there will be a repeat experience. .She is gone, and I had deemed my heart and attentions very much closed off. Even still, I never considered that I would have been so shocked or  interested before, for a variety of reasons, but something grabbed my attention when I heard that voice over the strings of the guitar, and I haven't been able to think of much else. What have you done now, Father Glenn?
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on December 06, 2018, 12:00:28 PM

The crusader returned to the desk the very next day, settling into the comfort of his personal retreat, and adorning the flat surface with a glass of fine Brandy, his trademark pipe, and an old violin case. By the grace of ingenuity, and resourcefulness, his vast arrangement of equipment helped him obtain neigh any goal- and this day his needs extended beyond the edge of Excalibur, the adamantine blade.

Quote
"It is a tragedy, because in many ways, you are a fine man."

The words rung in my ears like a reqiuem. Beautiful music that yet signifies the death of a dream. Forgive me Lord, for my moment of weakness. I am but a prisoner of fate, given a second chance to change the world, by your grace alone.I am what the people need me to be: The torch that will stay lit when they find themselves in their darkest hour. I am the shield that will stand between them and harm- the sword that might buy them the moments they need to reach safety. .but Lord,forgive me, for I am human still.

For the first time in what must be years, I started to dream of home. Did the grace of the Lord- the surge of divinity I felt- protect the Grand Master? Did Rhodes fall? The priests and nuns that raised me from child to Knight- did they return to you, Heavenly Father? Will I return to you?

I seem indominable, I project invincibility so that the others can find bravery within, and learn to conquer fear. . but there is more to my chest than armor. Damn this fragile heart . . .

He drew the old, dusty violin from it's case and set it upon his shoulder, and the silence of the lower half of the Lodge was enveloped in an adequately played, haunting melody.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on December 06, 2018, 12:35:45 PM
//Many revisions to the previous post. Should have hit preview instead of posting. Thanks for reading! \\
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on December 10, 2018, 09:17:12 PM

Quote
You grizzled fool. Poor, unfortunate soul.   Here I stand, trying to be more man than machine, yet every single time I find myself lulled into a sense of peace and serenity, the trap is sprung without remorse.  Would these two truly betray us so? Betray the Kinship?  Betray /me/?  LORD, if it is right for you to do so, grant them mercy. .  because for treason, there is none. 

My allies, my very brethren called into question-  The foundation I stand upon shaken, and my heart frustrated.

/WHY!?/
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on December 14, 2018, 09:38:56 AM
Quote
"Do not let her control you."

What a peculiar thing to say. There is influence, of that there is no doubt, but that is a path walked both ways. I think that, in some small regard, I have shown them that people like me are not all mindless rabble rousers. I would even be as bold or naive as to say that I consider them both very much to be my friends. The pair of them, I would gladly break bread, share my last tankard, and stand shield to shield with in the end of days. Even so, no matter how strongly forged our bond of trust and cooperation may be,  my divinity and their fortuitous tolerance of it, my powers and presence is something they were warned from childhood to fear.

" I thought that I had been struck dead.I forget that about you, that you are truly terrifying. . Not just all wonderful things, eh?"

Those words will likely rattle around in my birdcage for the foreseeable future. She had asked me to escort her through the village towards the Temple, and I obliged. Such as my luck goes, the very instant I stepped outside with her, we were rushed by three abnormally strong wererats. I underestimated her, because she held her ground rather well- but I acted out of instinct and unto them I spoke the name of the LORD. He responder, with a golden light of faith, and gripped the three blind mice quite still. She froze as well, and I rushed forward to dispatch them properly with Excalibur. The look on her face is seared into my mind's eye- that sheer terror. It was a look that was once my own, when I realized that the scary stories mother's told their children in my world was very much a reality here.

I embody the Holy Spirit as best I can, and act with kindness, compassion, and mercy with wrath as the final recourse, so to be called terrifying was particularly jarring.

I have grown so very much here, but as always, there appears to be plenty left for me to learn.

Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on December 16, 2018, 04:25:45 PM
Quote

"This is a torch that must never go out."

My dearest Kinship, rag tag band of Brothers and Sisters.

We are two things, always- the very real, feeling, loving, hating people, and the beacons. A tool, fire to ward away darkness and cold.

I set out to provide reenforcements to the Port-Au-Lucine, and I shall do that soon, but some things must make it to paper before what's left of my bravado has expired.

One of our own acting out of sorts, a litany of broken hearts putting on brave faces, and plenty of the darker forces trying to redirect the light and hide themselves.

I keep coming back to thinking of those that have been, those that are, and those that might be

Anya I am sure, now, is dead. One is young and with another who values her little, and another fully beyond reach.

I am eager for the day that I can once again share the man, the story behind the Cross.

I tire of being terrifying.

I tire of putting on a show.
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on January 01, 2019, 12:11:35 AM

Quote
"You are already worthy. "

We are far more than our blood- our physical circumstance and creation. If I am not an example of that, I cannot even fathom to understand what would be.  A man without parents, guided by the Church alone- One would think given my upbringing that I would be an abbot.  Secluded, and surrounded by my favorite books- preaching to those whom would listen.

Not that- for now I am free.  I picked up a sword, and forged my own way.

There are two paths in life in regards to our beginnings. We can blame them for the tragedies of our lives, or we can accept and overcome them.

You have done so.

I have done so.

Just because you do not posses the magic I do, does not make you less magical.

Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on January 04, 2019, 03:26:38 PM
 


Quote
  "You do what is right because it is right. That is a rare, and
precious thing."


The right thing to do is not always easy, and when the stars align poorly it can be the most dangerous or complex thing to do. It could cost you your life.

Was this worth it? The attempt? I would like to think so. To believe so.

 If you have the ability and the knowledge to remove a great and terrible curse, and are provided the opportunity- even to one whom I will eventually cross blades with- could a man of God- a Knight of God truly decline in good faith?

Others have spoken harshly, against me for doing so. Others have shown their support, and admitted they would not have the fortitude to 'treat' an enemy. I do not judge them, no matter their view.

Fighting is not all sword and magic. It can be words- or inner turmoil, and I admit I now experience the latter.

No matter the outcome, the process itself wrenched at my heart. The prayer of Atonement, complex in method and execution, went into effect without being rebuked by the Lord.. She was genuinely contrite, and remorseful.

The ritual also attempts to remove the curse from them by, at best, force. It tries to separate beast from body- and as I have learned- is excruciating. Inadvertently, I tortured them.

I wrote a report on it, and removed it a day later because I cannot find a phrasing I thought appropriate.

The events weigh on me heavily, and I find my shoulders heavy, today.
 
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on January 09, 2019, 09:17:26 PM

Quote
I have never felt such a whirlpool of emotions like this- not with such neigh uncontrollable severity. Sorrow, at the loss of a friend.  Confusion on how to address a very dire query.  Frustration-  no-  rage at facing yet another accusation based solely upon falsehood.

My integrity, my honor, my loyalty is something beyond reproach or question. I am honest to a fault, and I am sure that it will be the cause of my end- it certainly is attempting to do a number on my reputation. 

I see you.

I know you. 

I will find you. 

I am coming
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on April 27, 2019, 01:32:12 PM
The black wind begins to blow.

Stand by,
Pending me finishing it, and DM approval, a temporary exit post is coming, until my return late 2019, 2020
Title: Re: The Scarred Priest
Post by: Audric Lacroix on July 28, 2019, 01:27:03 PM

Over the years there was many a phrase  used to describe the crusading chaplain Audric Lacroix and his stubborn determination to take up arms for his faith. Ruthless zealot, kind soul, bloodthirsty murderer, paladin. Opinions of the Knight varied largely based on the beholders standing on the axis of good and evil. He believed firmly in the greater good, unphased by attempts to manipulate him. Friend and foe alike knew that he was a man unafraid to act, whom held his word above his very life.
 
Dedication to living a noble life would cost him dearly.
 
It had been a normal day, as normal as a day in the Barovian winter could be. He had journeyed long down the Old Svalich Road to make his way through the mists to deal with the teeming threats that made themselves at home in the Fanes. The mists, in their ever changing malevolence, had distinctly different plans for him. He never truly crossed through, despite several years of successful navigation, the weary cleric knew it only took a single shift for him to be lost for nigh eternity.
 
Hours turned into days, days to weeks and weeks to months - with hope a distant memory and only sheer faith and stubbornness keeping him pressing on in his very own rendition of hell.
 
The mists were death incarnate, and any creature that drew breath was marked to meet it in its own domain. If not constantly on the move and ready to fight, the reapers visit would be all too soon.
 
He succumbed to fatigue once every few days, hardly stopping to rest - but even he had to pause. His body had since quit responding to direction and his mind was too exhausted to urge his limbs onward. Audric slumped into a nearby tree and there he remained.
 
He opened his eyes to a change of scenery. A familiar one, one he was sure he couldn't be in. A hallucination? A nightmare? It felt too real. It felt… comfortable. It was the Wayfarers Kinship Lodge, in Valllaki.
 
 Miserably cold, constant precipitation, and the world slumbered. Even the ever-present horrors objected to lurking  and wading through snow and ice, save for when hunger or curse drove them to the brink of desperation. It was the calm before the storm, and Audric used the time to enjoy the few vices he welcomed into his otherwise cut and dry life.  He sat in his favorite chair with the terrier Adeline in his lap, a cup of whiskey in one hand and his favorite pipe in the other.
 
Peace was something that never lasted in this realm- a lesson Audric knew through his weary tenure in the demi-plane of dread. Whatever manifestation of wickedness the dark powers selected for its next incursion would wait until there was the illusion of victory and peace before it struck
 
This night would be no different.
 
Audric stared at the dancing flame in the fireplace, watching with some tension as his breath began to chill and thicken . The comfort and warmth abandoned the room nigh instantly. Adeline whined and leapt from his lap, assuming a strategically defensive position behind the chair and baring her teeth at the door.
 
“Adeline, size of a parcel - heart of a wolf. Do me a favor and keep Loric and the others safe, would you?” He spoke soothingly with some amusement to the stalwart defender of the lodge and rose from his chair.  He always suspected trouble lurked nearby, especially during periods of extended quiet; Unsurprisingly the crusader was already geared for combat. The immaculate cuirass was given a preparatory tug, and he hefted up his iteration of the fabled Shield of Evalach. War and combat were no stranger to the priest, so the almost nonchalant confidence in which he reacted was not bravado - it was experience.
 
He left the adamantine blade, his Excalibur replica, in its sheath and slowly opened the door, stepping out into the streets of the village of Vallaki. A solid ‘click’ of the door shutting and a spin of his key ensured that the little terrier would not find her way into trouble. The cold was bitter, as it always was during the midnight hour.  Through the haze of his own breath he could see the telltale sign that Old Night was making its presence known; an ominous thick mist had formed in abundance.
 
After a few moments of keen observation, the eerie silence of the night was broken by sounds of steel clashing, followed shortly thereafter by a feminine blood curdling scream and a guttural howl of a anguish from a man.
 
Audric had recognized both fairly quickly as Andrei Reznik and Teresca Mitrea, given the abundance of time he had spent with the couple.  The trio had formed an unlikely friendship over the past few years. A holy infused Knight and two Garda from an xenophobic land were an unlikely trio, but complementary. They understood him to some degree after he had explained that his martial and divine prowess may appear godlike to them, but his challenges were just as terrifying to him as theirs were.
 
The fear he felt for their safety was more than enough to summon his zeal, the strength of the Lord or whatever malevolence impersonated him, and he sprang into action. Prayers of speed, protection, and might were spoken fluidly and practiced - holy light swirling around him in tandem and propelling him forward with a stride twice that of normal man. It took mere seconds to charge around the Kinship Lodge and the adjoining buildings.
 
Several figures emerged from the alleys as they typically did, likely expecting to encounter a peasant foolish enough to attempt to travel home from one of the many taverns beneath the dark domain of old night. Each of them looked to one another in turn, as the hopes of easy prey were dashed by the visage of the forward-rampaging priest. His trademark red tabard, bearing the roman catholic cross, billowed in the wind, and the recognition caused visible fear amongst the brigands. Hunger overrode fear, and their misplaced confidence of numbers drove them to step forward in opposition.
 
It was a choice they would not be allotted the time to regret. Excalibur, in its mundane adamantine form was impressive, but within the starmetal rested a sliver of Audric’s soul- his love, wrath, zeal and strength. The brigands convulsed and twisted, their clothing bursting into tatters to reveal their insidious true nature as aberrant were-rats. They snarled and leapt at the charging figure, hoping in vain that their combined might could stop him. Excalibur struck with divine precision- a single upward flourish with superhuman force cutting the beast asunder in an eruption of sinew, fur, and crimson rain.
 
It was effortless for him, these minor threats.
 
His sword swung downward with carried momentum, cleaving the second like warm butter.  With a final arc, he spun the sword through the remaining opponent in a macabre dance of death. The last were-rat had been completely unable to react, bewildered expression plastered to its face as each half of its body fell in an opposite direction.
 
He didn’t stop to survey the carnage, urging forward through the gore. Teresca’s howl burned in his mind like a dying star, and every squandered second could prove fatal. Audric rounded the corner and slid to a halt, readied blade sagging in his grasp. From behind his polished greathelm, cobalt blue hues widened with horror. A massacre awaited him, not unlike the one he had just left but in a far greater magnitude.
 
The dead littered the cobblestone - guardsmen clutching splintered halberds, adventurers holding shattered shields, and no culprit in sight. The scene painted through his visor was too vivid - crystal clear in a land of perpetual obscurity. He counted friends amongst the bodies, and countless more strangers with lost limbs or entrails spilled onto the stone.  Carnage of this magnitude was something he never imagined to see again in his lifetime
 
A moment of bitter shock overcame him when through the atrocity he made out the crumpled form of Teresca leaned against the Guardhouse. Her beautiful face was marred by arterial spray, normally immaculate raven locks messed, thick and gleaming with fresh blood. The image was so painfully vivid- crystal clear in a land of neigh permanent obscurity.  Judging from the shattered fragments of her armor and the splintered blade scattered on the ground, Teresca had unsurprisingly fought tooth and nail against a now departed foe. Each metal shard was a testament to how hard the Barovian fought; her final expression was one of determination, but Audric had seen enough battlefields to know that she had moved on.
 
She held his focus for some time, until the morbid silence was broken by a lone weezing voice.  A distraction - perhaps a glimmer of hope for a survivor, something to pull him out of a well of crushing misery surrounded by the very essence of death. It was Reznik’s voice, angry and bitter.
 
“Audric, you bastard.”
 
Blood flowed freely from his mouth and the great many slashes on his body, separated by mere inches from the mangled corpses of the others, eyes wild with delirium.
 
“Why?  Damn you!”
 
Audric’s eyes watered with a mixture of sadness and confusion, approaching the guard as he collapsed and released his final breath. A hand came down to rest on Reznik’s shoulder to turn his body, revealing the instrument of his demise. A large hand and a half blade had been driven through him, and to Audric’s utter dismay he recognized the hilt.  It was identical to his own.
 
Hands trembling and breath ragged, Audric retreated from Reznik and Teresca’s bodies to turn and gauge his surroundings; they had all but disappeared. A thick dome of mist had formed around the morbid guardhouse - nearly impenetrable but somehow still casting a dreary pale light on the scene.
 
“Lo as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil because the lord is with me.” Audric spoke aloud, only a  faint quake in his sword arm betraying the crusaders typical aura of indomitable fortitude.
 
A voice from behind him startled him, shattering his fragile focus.
 
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
 
Audric turned on a heel quickly as a large figure positioned over Reznik reached down to retrieve the bloodied second Excalibur with a brutally efficient fluid motion.  The sound poisoned his ears with the squelching of metal through flesh. The figure turned, peering at Audric and falling into a silence that threatened to devour the world.
 
The figure was similar in stature and armament, bore an identical weapon, but a different tabard; He wore the black emblazoned with a white cross, tarnished by blood spray. It was a visible contrast to Audric’s red tabard of the Knights of Rhodes. There was little doubt in his mind this figure had created all of the surrounding carnage, and he had precisely what he needed to dispel the pit in his stomach: He had a target.
 
The Dark Knight sneered at him through his helm, raising the tainted blade and even whilst lacking a shield, presenting the weapon in challenge.
 
“You have lost your edge, Crusader. You have lost the will to act.”

 
His nerves calmed and all doubt vanished. There was no room for error in a fight for one’s life, no matter the odds or surroundings. He knew that the waters of his mind must be still and the picture clear.
 
“I never fail to act- I tilt when others withdraw, even against a man of the Lord disgracing the Cross by reveling in wickedness.”
 
“No one here is innocent, Crusader. Tilt if you wish, but you are too weak to do what is necessary.”
 
“The LORD will be the judge and you will be found wanting, murderer.”

“We shall see, then, who truly holds the favor of the LORD!”

 
The Black Knight spun his blade with an expert flourish, both men praying for favor and power to change the tide of the battle to come and launched forward at one another with supernatural speed.  Without a shield, the Black Knight had the advantage in speed, but it mattered little.  They collided with immeasurable force, as the more nimble of the two leapt and brought his sword downward, providing Audric only a moment to raise his blade in defense. The strength behind the Black Knights strike was enough to buckle his knees and force him to the ground.  It was a stark reminder that as strong as he was, there is always going to be an opponent that will be superior.  He slid beneath him, and shoved up in a fluid motion to recover his footing and throw the other Knight off balance - with partial success. The Black Knight stumbled as he landed, but was already aware of Audrics recovery and the following wide arcing side slash.  Even off balance, he proved faster and stronger than Audric at his most enspelled, swiping upward with the dark blade to both deflect Audrics sword and utilize the momentum to spin the blade faster than the eye could see.
 
 The darkened edge struck the crusader in the chest, shearing the tabard and letting the red fabric bearing the white cross flutter away into the night sky. Both Knights recovered their footing and lurched at each other- unleashing a cacophony of clashing swords in a daunting display of martial expertise. They exchanged blows for several minutes, each blow costing Audric footing -  but neither could land a solid hit.
 
Audric’s stamina was long since depleted, having been forced to fight defensively.  Soon even that would be beyond him. The Black Knight was indomitable, and his words rung like bells in his mind, ‘You lack the will to act.’ Combined with the threat of imminent death, thinking of the words was the trigger he needed to ignite that passionate rage buried within. It was the one emotion he always tried to restrain - but the leash was dropped and the beast emerged. He barged forward, thrusting the shield of Evalach abruptly through the Black Knight’s attempt to rebuke him.  The edge of the shield struck him at full force, impacting him beneath his helmet and snapping his head back. The Dark Excalibur clattered to the ground, and as Audric briefly hoped to establish battlefield superiority the Black Knight’s gauntlets came slamming down upon his shoulders to hold him still as their helmets collided in a vicious headbutt.
 
Exhausted and disoriented, Audric stumbled backwards and fell to a knee, aware only that the Black Knight had disengaged and put a significant amount of distance between the two.  As his vision refocused and his opponent returned to some semblance of clarity, he was struck twice in the chest by sinister looking arrows. The Black Knight had armed himself with a bow- Ravenna’s Bow, the First Kiss.
 
There was nothing left that he could do. He was outmatched in speed, resourcefulness, and strength of muscle and prayer.  The battle, one sided as it had been, was over - the arrows in either side of his chest leaving him incapable of raising blade or shield.
 
The distance closed step by step, each footfall echoing with his own heartbeat in the depths of his soul but he uplifted his helm to look at his adversary directly.
 
“Who the hell are you?” Audric managed, weakly.
 
“Your past. Your present. Your future.  I am everything that you should have been.”
 
The Black Knight lowered to a knee in front of him, and he became keenly aware that his surroundings had changed.Both the hazy dome and the  scene of slaughter at the guardhouse was gone, replaced by the battlements that facilitated his abduction by the mist.  He was ‘home,’ on the grand Citadel of Rhodes -  the Ottoman ships lurking in the waters and the evidence of their victory over the defending Knights of Rhodes abundantly clear.
 
It was all impossible, every single bit of it. Some test, some interference in his life by the devil, or some horrible dream that he could not wake from. The possibilities were bottomless, but it was difficult to tear his attention away from the screaming pain and the figure looming in front of him.
 
“I do not understand,” the Red Knight responded, as a thin tendril of crimson life trailed down the corner of his mouth.
 
“Perhaps you never will.  You have failed - every monster you spared, every act for the ‘greater good.’ Your lack of dedication towards true justice, towards vengeance. It has all brought you here, to failure. The precipice of life and death.  How many people will die because -you- lacked the drive to do what is necessary?” The figure pulled off its helm, and it was much as if Audric had peered into a mirror that reflected a wicked doppelganger.
 
“Only the right ones. Life is sacred.  Whatever trick this is - whatever evil, will not sway me,” he wheezed out, staring intensely at his 'darker self'.  “I will not be driven from the path of righteousness - I will not be convinced that death is the only answer. Not for myself - not for others. I will not be.. . I cannot be whatever -you- want me to be.”
 
“You merely lack the conviction to put the wicked to the sword. Teresca has taken eyes, taken lives, taken hands.  Reznik was no better, a loyal  member of this barbaric regime. Rhea, she is a beast - no better now and never shall be. All things -you- allowed to happen.”
 
Audric struggled to stay upright but did not falter. A faint glimmer of stubborn determination remained and he would speak through the blood rising in his throat. “I learned long ago, no matter how bleak things appear, and no matter how hard people attempt to convince you of someone's wickedness - it is very rarely black and white… Strength is worthless without the wisdom to know when to use it.”
 
“We will see, Audric Lacroix. If, and only if, you survive.  What good is wisdom to the dead?”

 
The surroundings - the very visage of the Citadel of Rhodes, and the dark mirror vanished with dissonant laughter, leaving him in a place he knew all too well. Eyes open, and bloodshot, he knew he was still deep, deep within the mists- leaned up against the very same tree with a Greater Mist Horror looming over him.
 
The reaper had come, but Audric was not ready to leave the Mortal Coil.
--------FIN